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Ethics in Social Work

An understanding of ethics is vital to the practice of social work. Without a commitment to ethics and a willingness to tailor their conduct to an ethical code, social workers cannot provide meaningful and effective services to their clients. In the field of social work, two professional organizations, the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) have taken the lead in defining a set of ethical principles to guide social workers in their professional practice. When grappling with ethical issues, debate and thoughtful reflection are of primary importance. Each case will present its own ethical challenges. There are no predefined answers to the problems that social workers face in their day to day interactions with patients. What is vital is the ability to recognize ethical dilemmas, to think analytically about the proper application of ethical principles to a particular problem, and to make decisions that are informed by ethical awareness.

Social workers are routinely placed in the middle of ethical quandaries. They often find themselves in situations in which their loyalty is torn between competing interests. Their function is to help their clients, but they also exercise a great deal of control over their lives and welfare. While the social worker’s first duty is to his or her client, the social worker must always balance this duty against the needs and interest of society. In addition, social workers often face the problem of limited resources and must make hard decisions about how to distribute them.

Any meaningful code of ethics in the field of social work must emphasize issues of social justice and human rights. Social workers seek to change the society they live and work in for the better. They help individuals resolve problems in their relationships and improve their lives by empowering them to think and act for themselves. Essentially, they assist individuals in their interactions and negotiations with their physical, social, and cultural environment. In doing this, social workers draw upon principles of human behavior and tenets of sociology.

A number of international agreements and declarations regarding human rights provide useful guidance to social workers in negotiating the ethical dilemmas that are inherent to their profession. These agreements include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, The Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. These agreements share with the profession of social work an explicit dedication to the protection of human rights and the promotion of human dignity. The ethics of social work should be based primarily on a respect for the value of the individual and a commitment to principles of self-determination and individuality. What follows is a list of general principles to guide social workers in serving their clients and navigating ethical dilemmas.

1.Social workers should support the right of each individual to make his or her own decisions as long as doing so does not impinge on the rights or welfare of others.

2.Social workers should advocate the full participation of their clients in the world around them.

3.Social workers should treat each person as a whole person and keep in mind that the person functions and plays a role in the family, the community, and society at large.

4.Social workers should focus on the identifying their clients’ strengths and developing them.

5.Social workers have an obligation to challenge discrimination and prejudice.

6.Social workers should recognize and foster diversity and respect cultural, ethnic, and religious differences.

7.Social workers should distribute the resources available to them equitably and fairly on the basis of need.

8.Social workers should challenge social injustice by protesting unfair policies and lobbying for the equitable distribution of resources and the just treatment of employees and citizens.

9.Social workers should challenge social oppression and bias that leads to certain individuals being excluded from full participation in society.

10.  Social workers should learn the skills required for their profession and work at maintaining their level of professional knowledge.

11.  Social workers should not use their skills or professional privileges to advance purposes that hurt others, such as terrorism, torture, and deception.

12.  Social workers should not abuse the trust that their clients place in them by placing their own personal gain before their clients’ needs.

13.  Social workers should be guided by the principle of compassion for the plight of others.

14.  Social workers should pursue the professional and personal paths that will enhance their knowledge and well-being so that they will be better able to serve their clients.

15.  Social workers should maintain strict confidentiality with respect to any information received from their clients.

16.  Social workers must recognize the conflicts of interest that exist between their responsibility to their clients and their obligations to their employers and colleagues and duty to follow the law and the regulations applicable to their profession.

17.   Social workers have an obligation to pass on what they know and assure that future social workers receive adequate training by getting involved with social work schools whenever possible.

IASSW: The home page of the International Association of Schools of Social Work.

IFSW: The home page of the International Federation of Social Workers.

ICSW: The home page of the Institute for Clinical Social Work.

NASW Code of Ethics: The text of the National Association of Social Workers’ code of Ethics.

Journal of Social Work Ethics and Values: The home page of the Journal of Social Work Ethics and Values.

CSWA Ethics Code: A link to the Ethics Code of the Clinical Social Work Association.

American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work: A link to the Ethics Code of the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work, the body that certifies and licenses clinical social workers.

An Ethics Audit: A link to the article “Conducting an Ethics Audit” by Frederic G. Reamer from the journal Social Work Today. The article describes the purpose of an ethics audit in the realm of social work and the procedure for conducting one.

UDHR: The official UN home page for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

CEDAW: The text of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

CERD: Excerpts from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: The text of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights from the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.

Convention on the Rights of the Child: A section of the UNICEF web site devoted to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: The text of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention: The text of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention from the International Labor Organization.

POSTED BY: Genesis Font - May 12th, 2010 at 03:55pm ( 0 )

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